chapter  6
17 Pages

The gendered contradictions in South Africa’s state housing: accumulation alongside an undermining of assets through housing


Introduction This chapter has two aims. The first is to examine the mass-subsidy housing programme in South Africa from a gendered perspective, focusing largely, but not exclusively, on particular positive social outcomes of the programme. The second aim is to highlight the ways in which the housing programme is less positive, revealing negative outcomes for residents, some of which are distinctly gendered. As such, the chapter contributes to wider debates on asset accumulation by offering an analysis of the contradictions of housing as a gendered asset by examining the lived experiences of housing beneficiaries, in order to support feminist scholarship on the challenges of ‘women’s access to and control over housing’ (Rakodi 2014, 2). Its focus is South Africa where, since the fall of apartheid, the state at the scale of the city has adopted a mix of developmental policies alongside policies that support existing capital, state, and traditional elite interests (Parnell and Robinson 2012). ‘Developmental’ policies refer to those interventions which are progressive and which focus on universal basic needs and engendering citizen participation, and result in actions which are redistributive (after Parnell and Robinson 2012). This wider policy context includes increasing formal housing supply, implementing welfare policies, improving schooling and health care, and broadening political inclusion, and is actively shaping the urban spaces of South African cities, with the housing programme transforming large swathes of cities, particularly their peripheries. Arguably these developmental interventions contribute to forms of gendered asset accumulations, as would be expected from progressive structural change. Recognition of state-led interventions in shaping assets accumulations is important, and contributes to a broadening of the debate beyond bottom-up practices to consolidate and acquire assets (see Moser in Chapter 1). The South African mass-subsidised housing programme is the topic of much research (see Cross et al. 2013; Zack and Charlton 2003; Tissington 2011; Huchzermeyer 2011) and some of this is discussed below. Despite this research, work exploring the social outcomes or the lived experiences of ‘delivered housing’ is relatively patchy but growing (see Charlton 2014). Furthermore, there is limited work on the gendered outcomes of state housing per se (although

see Chenwi and McLean 2009 on gender and housing inadequacy). However, research by Charlton (2004, 2014), Venter and Marais (2006), and myself (Meth 2014b) provides evidence that receiving a home is very positive for many women, but that negative outcomes are evident too. It is these contradictory outcomes that form the focus of this chapter. The chapter briefly outlines the mass-subsidised housing programme in South Africa before analysing at the micro-scale the home and the gains and losses of the housing programme, including those which are gendered. It concludes by considering how the housing programme can contribute to gendered asset accumulation through social changes in particular, as well as exploring the implications of the analysis for the production of a transformative and just city.